Refah Khatiali and her family share a two-room mud house just meters from the banks of a gently winding river, nestled among golden fields of rustling sorghum and blooming acacia trees. East Kolwa in Western Kenya is a land of abundant harvests and breathtaking sunsets. But life here isn’t easy. Roads are few, and the population is sparse. This is because Khatiali lives on a floodplain, and several times a year the river that flows through it turns deadly.
When it does, people can be trapped in their houses for days. The narrow footpaths become impassible. Khatiali recalls that during the most recent rains, the family awoke to find themselves knee deep in water, and had to evacuate in the middle of the night. But her most pressing concern is for her three children, the youngest of whom is a one and a half year-old girl.
“The water covers this path”, she says, pointing just outside her door. “When she tries to cross to the other side the water can easily take her. People die of drowning, especially children.”
Khatiali owns a small kiosk in a nearby town, selling oil, soap, tea and fruit; her husband works as a driver. For years she had been looking for a way to keep her children safely inside, particularly while both parents are out. She had never owned a TV, and almost no one in the area is connected to the grid. “People are afraid of electricity”, she explains, because of the risk of electrocution during floods.
Then one day she saw a Mobisol solar TV at a neighbor’s house, and decided this was the solution to her problem. She was impressed by how long it held its charge compared to other solar TVs. “This one you can watch the whole day”, she says. It took her two months to save enough for the 5,500 shilling ($55) down payment, and now she repays 60 shillings (60c) a day.
For Khatiali, it’s worth it. “If the kids don’t have a TV, they will have to go outside to play”, she explains. “It’s dangerous.” Plus, they learn things like spelling and math from educational programming, and the whole family sits down to watch the news together every night.
The Mobisol package came with a radio and three lights, enough for each room of the house with a security light out front. Khatiali’s neighbors were astonished to see she could afford it. “They thought it was expensive,” she says. “I told them it’s not expensive because it saves them buying kerosene and such things.” Khatiali also knew the fumes from her old kerosene lantern were bad for the children, and she was relieved to set it aside.
Her TV has a built-in battery, and she’s happy with it. But, as a businesswoman, she would like someday to buy an external battery that could power other appliances, such as an iron or electric clippers. “I can open a barber shop near the school”, says Khatiali with a smile, “and I can cut the children’s hair.”
The Global LEAP Awards is an international competition to identify and promote the world’s best off-grid appliances, accelerating market development and innovation. This unique program has evolved into a trusted global brand that serves as the de facto source of accurate, actionable information about the quality and energy performance of off-grid appliances, with support from Power Africa, UK aid, Energising Development, Powering Agriculture, and USAID, and in partnership with the Efficiency for Access Coalition. The Global LEAP Awards innovation deployment program featured in the video above was initiated in collaboration with Ideas to Impact, IMC Worldwide, and Energy 4 Impact, with support from Power Africa, UK aid, and Energising Development.